Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Llancayo Windmill

Behold! A giant am I!

Llancayo Windmill
So goes the first line of the poem 'The Windmill' by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, written in 1880. This proclamation rings true today as you travel along the B4598 from Chainbridge to Usk, you can't fail to notice the wonderful, 60ft high restored windmill at Llancayo, about 2 miles before you reach Usk. It stands majestic in a field, its sails outstretched like giant arms reaching for the wind, with the hills of Wentwood in the far distance and the fields and woods of the Usk Valley providing a scenic backdrop.


A windmill for a retired pirate!

The mill was built in around 1813 by privateer, Edward Berry. After years of privateering and sacking of French ships, during the Napoleonic Wars,  Berry decided to take up farming and settled down in the Vale of Usk, where he built the mill and nearby farms. The mill was used to grind wheat. Mr Evan Williams (owner in 1959) recalled - "The man who placed the windmill here knew his business. No matter how calm the day may be elsewhere there is always a wind on this field" (extract from a newspaper article printed in 1959 by Monmouthshire Historian, Fred Hando).

The mill has been a ruin since around 1830
sketch by Fred Hando

Llancayo windmill was a tower or "smock" mill., so called because of the way it resembled the 'smocks' worn by farmers and millers. At the summit, the cap was arranged to support the shaft and the sweeps (sails), and to rotate so that the sweeps faced into the wind. This type of windmill first appeared in the 16th century. The walls of the tower are 2'2" thick, the diameter at ground level is 26' and there are five floors.

The working life of the mill was short, it was destroyed by fire in around 1830. No-one knows for sure how the mill burnt down, but the favoured story is that on a still summer morning the miller went to market leaving the sweeps (sails) coupled to the gearing. A fierce wind blew up, the coupling became red hot and the brakes ignited the timber. When the miller returned the mill was a flaming torch and past saving. 

Thanks to local artist Greta Hart,  for allowing me to include this lovely
sketch she made of  the ruined  mill late 1980's

The mill tower prior to renovation
The windmill remained a ruin for over 160 years until local property developer, Peter Morgan bought the land and the windmill in the late 1990s. It took seven years to gain planning permission, but renovation work finally started in 2006 with the aim of rebuilding the mill and adjoining cottage in an authentic style, using locally-sourced materials. The mill finally opened its doors to guests as luxury holiday accommodation in summer 2009.

Restoration underway

As a child I remember going to Usk Show which was held during the 1960s and 1970s on fields at Llancayo, and seeing the ruined windmill and wondering what it looked like before the fire, so it is wonderful to see the windmill restored in all its glory. I have included some links to some walks that incorporate views of the windmill at the foot of this page.

The fully restored mill is a wonderful sight - taken from near the river

The Windmill

Behold! A giant am I!
Aloft here in my tower,
With my granite jaws I devour
The maize, and the wheat, and the rye,
And grind them into flour.

I look down over the farms;
In the fields of grain I see
The harvest that is to be,
And I fling to the air my arms,
For I know it is all for me.

I hear the sound of flails
Far off, from the threshing-floors
In barns, with their open doors,
And the wind, the wind in my sails,
Photo by Clare Scutts
Louder and louder roars.
I stand here in my place,
With my foot on the rock below,
And whichever way it may blow
I meet it face to face,
As a brave man meets his foe.

And while we wrestle and strive
My master, the miller, stands
And feeds me with his hands;
For he knows who makes him thrive,
Who makes him lord of lands.

On Sundays I take my rest;
Church-going bells begin
Their low, melodious din;
I cross my arms on my breast,
And all is peace within.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 1880

Further Information

Unless otherwise stated, photos apart from those taken by myself, courtesy of  the Llancayo Windmill website

The view of the Llancayo Windmill as I drive towards Usk from Chainbridge, although
a regular occurrence, never ceases to provide a thrill and seeing this wonderful local landmark by day
or floodlit at night, also means I'm nearly home! I stopped the car and took this photo in Nov 2013.

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